The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

September 13, 2013

Tomahawks more than hockey team | Organization a vital cog in region

JOHNSTOWN — It may be hard to believe, but it’s hockey season in Johnstown.

The leaves haven’t started changing colors in much of the region and it certainly felt like summer earlier this week, but the Johnstown Tomahawks are ready to hit the ice for their second season in the North American Hockey League.

A year ago at this time, we wondered how a junior hockey team would fare in Johnstown. After all, this has been a pro hockey town – and a very supportive one – for years. How would the fans react to these high school- and college-age young men rather than the older, and often more physically imposing, players that used to suit up for the Johnstown Chiefs?

We need not have worried. Last year’s reaction to the team was fantastic. Fans filled the Cambria County War Memorial Arena on a regular basis and quickly turned Johnstown into one of the top destinations for players. Even those on visiting teams were excited to come to Johnstown and play in front of big crowds.

We’ve heard a number of the young men on this year’s team say that they had chances to play in other cities but from what they know about Johnstown – either through firsthand experience or by word of mouth – that this was the place they wanted to be.

They’re excited to play in front of a few thousand fans on regular basis – and a sold-out arena on a number of occasions, if it’s like last season. They want to be a part of the NAHL’s Organization of the Year, which is the distinction that the Tomahawks earned last season. And they want to be a part of the Johnstown community, as they know that the Tomahawks do plenty more than just play hockey. Last year, the Johnstown Tomahawks Foundation directly donated and assisted with donations of more than $25,000.

That’s one major way that the Tomahawks get involved in the community. They also help younger players learn the skills of the game, visit hospitals and schools to interact with impressionable youngsters and take part in local festivals and parades.

In a little more than a year, the organization has become an important part of our region and does much more than provide weekend entertainment at the hockey rink.

The team’s owners, including majority owner Jim Bouchard, deserve credit for everything that the team has done in the past year. So does his brother, team President Rick Bouchard, and General Manager Rick Boyd, the former Johnstown Chief who was instrumental in bringing the Tomahawks here.

Coach Jason Spence and assistant Mike Letizia have put together a squad that could be one of the best in the league this season. We’re excited for the season, which begins at

7:30 p.m. Saturday and includes a hockeyfest celebration in front of the arena starting at 5 p.m.

We can’t wait for the puck to drop on the Tomahawks’ second season.

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